Issued on: 22/03/2020 – 07:50

France’s National Assembly, in a select committee, voted at dawn on Sunday for an emergency bill to give the government special powers to combat the coronavirus pandemic .

The text of the new bill allows the government to restrict people’s freedom of movement and rule by decree to requisition certain goods and services, over a period of two months.

The bill also empowers the government to take special measures in support of French companies hardest hit by the virus outbreak.

It comes the day after France recorded a spike in coronavirus-related deaths, 112 in one day, taking its total to 562 on Saturday. There have been 14,459 confirmed cases, the health ministry said in a statement

‘Up to six months in prison’

In concrete terms, the state of health emergency allows the Prime Minister, on the advice of the Minister of Health, to immediately implement a set of restrictive measures that apply throughout the country.

This includes the restrictions of movement and a potential ban on meetings and  business.

Other measures allow the State to requisition any goods or services to combat the health disaster. This would include taxis to transport hospital staff.

It is specified in the bill that any such actions undertaken in this state of health emergency cease as soon as they are no longer necessary.

In the version amended by the Assembly, the bill also provides for tougher penalties for French nationals who fail to comply with the confinement.

The first fine for violating the rules is 135 euros. This is increased to 1,500 euros in the event of a repeat offence “within 15 days”. In the case of “four violations within 30 days”, the offence will be “punishable by a fine of 3,700 euros and a maximum of six months in prison”.

The new law also postpones the second round of municipal elections until June at the latest.

 Parliament will sit again in a reduced session on Sunday.

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